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University Hospitals Gastroenterologist Leading New NIH-Funded Digestive Diseases Research Core Center

Innovative care for Inflammatory and Metabolic Digestive Disease

UH Digestive Health Institute - January 2016


Fabio Cominelli, MD, PhD

Chief Scientific Officer, UH Digestive Health Institute; Chief, Division of Gastroenterology & Liver Disease, UH Case Medical Center; Hermann Menges Jr. Chair and Professor of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Fabio Cominelli, MD, PhD, Chief of Gastroenterology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, is leader of a new Digestive Diseases Research Core Center in Cleveland, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The new center, one of just 17 in the U.S., is funded by a $6 million grant from the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, where Dr. Cominelli also serves as Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean for program development.

"These grants are very difficult to get, because obviously you have to compete against established centers," Dr. Cominelli says. "We're very proud that we're able to accomplish that starting from scratch."

The center’s focus is on two major areas: digestive inflammation and metabolism. Within these areas, the center aims to enhance the basic research capabilities of center investigators and develop and implement programs to support independent development of young investigators. In addition, the center is hoping to attract established investigators who are not currently involved in digestive disease research to apply their expertise to this area, while translating basic research discoveries to the clinical arena.

Cores and Clinical Component

Within the center are three core laboratories and an administrative core with a clinical component:

  • The Biorepository Core provides a high-quality, cost-effective and efficient system to provide investigators with samples of serum, DNA, tissue and cells to investigate mechanisms of digestive inflammatory and metabolic diseases. The Biorepository Core procures, provides and stores DNA, serum and biopsy and surgical tissues from patients with gastrointestinal and liver diseases, as well as normal controls, for use in Institutional Research Board-approved research. The core also provides clinical and demographic classification of tissue and DNA samples and distributes tissue, cells and clinical specimens for investigators to use in their digestive and liver disease-related research. In addition, the Biorepository Core provides expertise in the isolation of immune, epithelial, mesenchymal, endothelial and parenchymal cells from the gastrointestinal tract, cancer and liver for characterization in vitro.
  • The Histology/Imaging Core provides high-quality, cost-effective and time-efficient histological and imaging analysis of human and animal tissues of digestive inflammatory and metabolic diseases. The core provides basic, high-quality histologic and immunohistochemistry (IHC)/immunofluorence (IF) services in a cost-effective and timely fashion. In addition, it provides initial service, consultation and subsequent training for special IHC staining in gastrointestinal (GI) and liver tissues and provides consistent and validated histological scoring of GI and liver inflammation for preclinical and clinical studies. 
  • The Mouse Models Core provides members with access to a comprehensive set of services and unique mouse models to support in vivo investigations of digestive diseases involving inflammatory and metabolic processes. It can provide experimental cohorts of SAMP1/YitFc (SAMP) and TNFARE mice and educate, consult, and train investigators in the use of various mouse modeling techniques. The core can also provide high-resolution murine video endoscopy with well-validated scoring of intestinal inflammation and colonic tumors and perform stereomicroscopy on murine intestinal tissues and assess inflammation by 3-D stereomicroscopy with assessment of myeloperoxidase activity.
  • The Clinical Component provides investigators with formal consultation on biostatistical and experimental design principles, methods, analysis, and reporting, in collaboration with the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. The component also provides access to qualitative and quantitative measurement tools to collect data across a number of domains that may be required for ongoing research related to digestive inflammation and metabolism. In addition, it provides access to and assistance with using large population-based data sources that are housed at Case Western Reserve University for the conduct of clinical, epidemiological and health outcomes research, in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinical and Translational Science Collaborative.

For Dr. Cominelli, this new center presents many exciting opportunities to improve treatments and outcomes for people with inflammatory and metabolic digestive disease.

"The final goal is to promote discoveries that will affect patient care," he says. "Primarily we want to foster collaboration to find new ways of treating these diseases."

For more information, email